Rainier cherries, with their red blush, golden flesh and large size are increasingly popular with shoppers.
“Consumers are looking for big fruit with a nice crunch,” Nager says.
A good rainier is big — about 9½ to 8½ row, Pepperl says.
Shippers say rainiers represent 10% to 15% of their cherry sales. Still, some consumers don’t know what rainiers are, and they might see them as a high-priced risk, Riggan says.
“Consumers need to understand why a rainier has a different color, flesh, taste and price point,” Nager says.
He says Domex works with retailer customers to educate consumers through in-store displays, samples and social media promotions.
Pepperl says good signage can sell rainiers. Signs should explain that rainiers are high-sugar cherries with a unique flavor. Pepperl says Stemilt’s rainiers have a brix level of 22 to 24, compared with dark sweet cherries’ brix of 16 to 19.
Demonstrations are good because they let consumers make their own determinations about the value of cherries, Riggan says. Pepperl says sampling works well with rainiers because the fruit is large enough that pieces can be sliced off the pit and sampled with toothpicks. Riggan says that once consumers sample good rainiers, they’re likely to buy them.
Northwest rainiers are generally expected to be available from about the third week in June through early July. Stemilt expects to have California-grown rainiers from about mid-May into early June, and Washington-grown rainiers from mid- to late June until early August, Pepperl says.
The peak time for promoting rainiers is expected to be July 5 to July 20, Pepperl says, and he recommends promoting early and often.
“If you can sell them (the week after July 4), they’ll come back for the next three to four weeks that you have them in the store,” Pepperl says.
Chelan Fresh this season plans to market the bright red skinned, golden-fleshed Orondo Ruby for the first time, Riggan says. The cherry is expected to be available from about mid-June to early July. It looks and tastes similar to a rainier but is more acidic. Riggan says the flavor is complex and the cherry is crunchy. Chelan Fresh expects to ship about 35,000 16-pound boxes of Orondo Ruby cherries this season.
Bagged cherry success
Columbia Marketing InternationalThere are many cherry packaging options. Bags, clamshells and gusseted stand-up bags are all important, says Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.